Notes and Editorial Reviews
A fascinating selection of Martinu's early piano works, plus two late trifles
In his classic biography of Martinu (Allen Wingate: 1962), Milos Šafránek states that in “the large and varied assortment of youthful works and experiments, Puppets holds a singular and significant place”. Composed in three sets between 1912 and 1924 (but published in reverse sequence; they are played here in chronological order), Puppets sounds anything but experimental now, though for Martinu’s hometown of Policka just after the Great War, the somewhat Satiesque charms of these 14 pieces must have seemed highly modern.
Heard with the innocent ear, most
listeners would be hard put to identify the composer of Puppets and I suspect the same applies for another of the novelties here, the pretty, if flimsy, children’s suite Spring in the Garden (1920). This is no match for what Mark Gresham calls “the bold, jazzy and propulsive” Film en miniature (1925), one of the first products of Martinu’s Paris sojourn. The pearl of Koukl’s programme, though, is Butterflies and Birds of Paradise, written at Christmas of the same year as Spring in the Garden but light years ahead of it in quality. Here Martinu uses impressionism as if born to it.
Still, none of these early pieces, nor even The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon (1948, dedicated to Tcherepnin’s wife and the only work otherwise available) really sound like the mature Martinu. Only in the 29th and final track, The Booksellers of the Quai Malaquais (1948; dedicated to the composer’s wife) do we encounter one of those heart-stopping themes familiar from the symphonies. Koukl’s performances, occasionally a little over-robust, as in Butterflies, are very warmly recorded but this is a splendid disc despite that. Recommended.
-- Guy Rickards, Gramophone [5/2007]
Works on This Recording
Puppets: Book 1 by Bohuslav Martinu
Giorgio Koukl (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: Czech Republic
Venue: RSI Studios, Lugano, Switzerland
Length: 11 Minutes 9 Secs.
Notes: RSI Studios, Lugano, Switzerland (10/06/2005 - 10/09/2005)
Composition written: Czech Republic (1912 - 1914).
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